Category Archives: Essays

‘Why Girl Code Matters’ by C. Imani Williams

I’ve got stories. Girl Code matters. Simply put, it’s the art and tradition of women looking out for each other. There should never be a time it isn’t employed. Sisterhood is about unity and solidarity. It’s about having your sister’s back and not accepting, tolerating, or promoting misogynistic behavior. I don’t care how badly you like seeing your friend smiling and happy because her heart and punany are turned up. Even if she’s married sh*t can go awry. Maintaining Girl Code keeps you in the loop and may help keep her safe should life get crazy. There are guidelines to sisterhood, and the recent and untimely death of Kaneeka Jenkins,19, of Rosemont, Illinois, means we need to revisit the rules.

Kaneeka’s Death Was Preventable
We still don’t know what happened or how Kaneeka ended up in the basement of a hotel where she was celebrating landing a new job with friends. Her body was found frozen in a hotel walk-in freezer almost 24 hours after she attended the party. Hotel video shows that she was severely impaired. The FBI has elected not to pursue her death, and people are making memes about the tragedy. Kaneeka deserves justice. Shame on people. If we learn anything from this senseless loss of life, let it be—that we do our best to protect those we care about and love.

Sister, We’re Two Of A Kind
It’s been said that a special place in hell is reserved for women who won’t help other women. This is true and precisely why Girl Code matters. The covenant of sisterhood should start early. Back in the day, young women venturing out into the dating world were encouraged to always keep “mad money” on hand. A dime in a penny loafer or a coin purse ensured car fare or a phone call home. It’s a bad idea to meet up with people you’ve met online and know nothing about. So, slow your roll. There’s time connect after a few phone conversations and you’ve done some background digging Right? All that glitters is not gold.

A rite of passage into dating should include mandatory Girl Code. A must-do list that needs to be followed to help ensure safety when mingling with the opposite sex. I’ll add, that unsavory situations pop off in same-sex settings as well. This is not specific to clubs and bars either.

Many times, sexual assault takes place at in-home functions. Casual get-togethers and open-house parties both present opportunities to get caught up in madness.

College Coeds Should Practice Girl Code

Sexual assaults on the campus of colleges continue to raise concerns as they are often slow to investigate, and quick to re-victimize women who suffer assault, in an environment where they should be safe. Too often, affluent student and athletes receive a slap on the wrist for rape and assault. Female co-eds have been victimized by school administration and shamed on social media for coming forward about an assault. Whether it’s a campus party, a house party in the hood, or on the cruise you’ve waited eight months to take, Girl Code needs to be in place.

We Come Together, We Leave Together
Form a pack and hold each other accountable. There’s no dipping out with the fine A. F. the person standing in front of you, making your panties wet. Get a phone number. Nope, you can’t stay there with the cutie if we decide to bounce. Take a picture and get a number. You’re leaving with the crew you came in with. Bathroom room runs require pairs. Besides, we like going with a friend anyway.

Tricks Are For Kids
The presence of alcohol makes it easy for fuck boys and narcissistic women to have fun at the expense of others. You’ve seen a Lifetime movie or two. In a nutshell, watch your drink. It’s so easy to slip something into a glass in public spaces. Big Mama, yours and mine both, always made the drink rules clear. Don’t accept one from strangers, don’t drink it if you didn’t see it poured, and once you walk away to the ladies room or dance floor, it’s a wrap. Don’t lift that glass back up to your lips. I don’t care who’s supposed to be watching it, people have short attention spans. Even if cost twenty bucks, or was free. Even if it’s just juice. Leave it.

Alcohol will pretend to be your friend and can give a generally reserved person, “girl of the hour” courage. It lowers inhibitions and can make you feel fabulous and then take you to lowest of lows. Turned up, sexual inhibitions can drop. Fun flirting with the cutie across the room can lead to conversations that turn into physical pleasure, real fast. Most of us have been there.

Designated Drivers, One Person Not Faded
Everybody can’t turn up. Decide on a designated driver before going out. Even if you Uber, at least one person has to be alert. Yes, it’s that serious. Safety reasons present again. In a society where rape culture and misogyny are common and over 64,000 Black women are missing in the U.S., we can’t risk losing another person. Girl Code matters because rape and human trafficking are sad realities.

Adjust Your Crown
Girl Code dictates that women stand for and with each other. Fighting patriarchy, and refusing to be treated as lesser than, are born rights. We have to demand respect from men. Girls, need to know that they have a voice. Boys need to learn respect of women early. Calling a girl a thot and pulling her hair in third grade is not okay. We have to stop brushing those “kids will be kids” moments off. Not addressing it tells a girl that she is not valuable.

The thing is, we’re all valuable. I don’t care how muddy your shoes got while you were in the storm getting the lesson. You’re not alone. Value and honor sisterhood. Let’s entrust each other to stand for that which makes us stronger, and more fierce. The tighter the squad, the higher we can fly. Girl code matters and true sisterhood is priceless.

Copyright 2017 by C. Imani Wiliams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Club Heaven’ by C. Imani Williams

I was solo as I entered Heaven, an after hour gay dance spot on the northeast side of Detroit, MI. A rare find in a city that didn’t offer much to the black gay, and trans populations. Totally closeted I hadn’t approached anyone about where Black lesbians hung out.

Heaven was a cultural gem that stayed under the radar.

Creating Community

Folk don’t give too much of a fuck about Black gay folks today. In the late 70s they sure weren’t dealing with the “funny faggot” issue. The Black power era was not inclusive of all its brothers, and embraced even fewer sisters. By 1992, Heaven was a staple for Detroit Black queers, who enjoyed the sanctuary of a “for us” space.

Seeking Safe Space

I was quietly bi-curious and Heaven was a place for me to check things out. Anonymously. I always went alone, with the exception of a couple of times, when I left  a straight house party in search of more music with a str8 friend, who was used to queer crowds.  Her dude was a house dee jay. I doubt if any other of my str8 crew would have accompanied me. I felt like a spy on a queer ass mission.

I Needed Heaven

The music was an aphrodisiac, House does something to me. It’s spiritual. I get high off the rhythm; I ride that bitch, no alcohol needed. Back when Heaven was open, I was still drinking, especially if I was partying. The fact that I’m an alcoholic hadn’t quite kicked in yet. With thirteen years of sobriety I look back on that time and see a lot of places where I was overly confident and sometimes just plain foolish.

This night though, I was full. Not drunk, but still floating from the music and the long island iced tea I’d had earlier. For five dollars you could dance at Heaven from two am till five thirty. Sometimes, the music played longer and daylight was on the horizon when patrons exited the club. I’d decided before heading out that evening that I was going to ask someone to dance. I didn’t’ know the protocol.

No Facebook Live To Capture The Vibe

As I walked in the walls were sweating from the energy in the room. Queens walked around dressed in miniskirts and six-inch stilettos. Others opted for platforms. Faces beat, in all that heat. There was a party going on!  The music was hyped and folk were taking up every inch of space.

As usual there were not many women in the house. By women, I mean lesbians. There were a few but mostly the crowd was gay and trans. This was their spot and I was grateful to be allowed to enter such a sacred space.

I Watched With My Heart

As I took in my surroundings a young male couple hugged in front of me. I guessed them to be in their late teens. They were all over each other, as if the days between meeting at Heaven had depleted them, and this was their opportunity to breathe again. They kissed, as the shorter one pulled the taller one back into him as he leaned into the wall. I watched them feeling all kinds of things.  I noted to myself that there was nothing wrong with feeling that way about another human being. Their passion was intense. I’d heard of people fucking through songs on the low. They weren’t that deep but they were close. He turned his man around and made him claw the wall he’d so eagerly backed into. I was digging it.

Well, Hello!

I looked up and saw “her”.  A couple of inches shorter than me, me she stood about 5’2” and had curly hair. Somebody with Indian blood was close in her family line. Deep dimples dotted her chocolate skin as she smiled chatting with the woman next to her. She was working her jeans and her Guess fitted tee, very nicely.  I didn’t know if they were a couple but I was feeling the music and decided, that I was going to make my move soon. Generally you don’t ask someone to dance at a House spot. Everyone is on their own thing. Dancing alone, partnered, and in groups. But I didn’t know the etiquette rules for bi curious folk.

There was a lot of good feeling going on. Drag Queens on platforms dancing sexy above everyone on the dance floor. The fog machines were pumping as people danced under the many strobe lights.

Heaven Made Me Feel Free

You could literally feel the stress of living black and queer in a pro-hetero, homophobic, community falling off through the hypnotic music. It helped folk deal the constant racism and oppression of a straight thinking community. Layers of bullshit were removed at Heaven on a weekly basis. It was a spot where black queers found acceptance and nothing but love.

Thank you, Ken Collier

DJ Ken Collier brought his musical gifts opening the door for many Detroit House deejays. He inspired and groomed Detroit mix masters both women and men who have made huge names for themselves, with thirty plus years on the tables. Detroit’s “Godfather of House” Collier defined entrepreneurship in the arts for an underground movement that pushed through to become a genre staple for across the world.  Respected until his passing in 1995 for bringing some peace and good time to people who deserved a break, even if, it was only once or twice a week.

Understanding this, I over stood the passion of the two young men slobbing each other down, and feeling each other up as if their lives depended on it. It did. As for me, I got that dance and Dimple’s phone number.  

Copyright 2017 by C Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘Let’s Be Clear I Am Completely Here For Black Liberation’ by Imani Williams

The countless murders of Black people by police, the rape and violence perpetrated against Black women and children, and brothers killing each other, along with a society that is confused on what consent means and when to apply it, have me worn out. A shift has taken place over the last week. At least with me, it has.

As I’ve dealt with all the privilege that floats down my social media timelines, I’ve felt a pull. That pull is leading me closer to my destiny. I abhor all the isms that make this life unbearable for so many. I abhor the people who use “isms” as navigational tools the most. That Black people support white supremacy without even thinking about it, is very concerning. As a people, we accept so much and question so little, where it matters.

The shift that took place happened after I published a piece on cultural appropriation. A topic which burns me up and warrants discussion. As a Social Justice writer and activist, I put uncomfortable shit out there. We have to deal with it. Some white people on my friend’s list are not dealing well with my Pro-Black Queer Stance on equality and advancing this Mighty Race. Marcus Garvey was onto something, so was Brother Malcolm.

I know that now. I extended an olive branch in the name of “I’m not always right and I’m big enough to admit that.”  As I explained in the article, my white friend and I both artists, both outspoken, and will go toe-to-toe for our beliefs. We worked through our stuff, it was hard. I wasn’t backing down, she wasn’t either.

Last night, I get an inbox from another Facebook friend, also white.  She cautioned me against alienating white people with my anti-white posts. Let’s also be clear on the fact that I’m not anti-white. I’m against white supremacy. Two completely different things. On top of that, she and I aren’t close Facebook friends. She rarely comments on my posts, it’s happened maybe twice in five years.

I’m like man I am so over white people who refuse to do their anti-privilege work before stepping to me. With this shift I’m channeling not only Garvey and Malcolm X, I’m rolling with Dr. King, Mother Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner. I’m so over it. I want to drag edges with Maya Angelou’s poems as my shield. I’m channeling Yoruba Priestesses and Priest. All.Of.This.

I’m feeling every bit. I’ve been an advocate for justice and equality a long time. The world has changed in the thirty + years since I’ve come of age.  I don’t recognize people I thought I knew. I’m so concerned for the children. They don’t get to remain innocent long enough. I’m concerned for our elders. Who’s really looking out for them?

We haven’t even had our post-slavery discussion talks yet. No real town hall gatherings where we check in and love and love on each other have happened on a large enough scale for me. We’ve survived so much and yet the struggle continues.

My recent shift entrenches me deeper on the path for Black Liberation for my people. White supremacy be damned, my armor is on and there ain’t no turning back. I’m using my pen and the blood of millions of Black people as strength. If people handle the truth and they have privilege on their side and aren’t using it to right the horrific wrongs that exist, I have no use for them. Not an iota.

I’m about freedom and equality for Black people. When redlining and gentrification are stopped, and Black education means quality education reflecting the cultural greatness of Black people in this country and the world, when school  administrators stop stealing from babies, housing is affordable, and child care doesn’t make working outside the home futile, when food deserts in Black communities are banished and instead are overflowing with well-tended community gardens, and libraries are opened and functional in urban neighborhoods, when my people stop breathing in toxins that corporations pump into poor neighborhoods, and health care is not only affordable but accessible, when people dying of cancer and hypertension are treated, and stress from being poor and tired is lifted, I’ll take a break. But, as long as the fuckery continues, I’m in the game.

Copyright 2017 by Imani Williams. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.

‘A Blood Ritual On The Fountain Of Youth’ by Robert L. Franklin

On a balmy May night, amidst a flurry of insect choruses performing great symphonies in the towering grass, I sat in my chair and had what I can only assume to be a dramatic revelation. All writers, I said to myself while striking the flint of my trusty windproof lighter and immolating the end of a cigarette, are time-travelers.

I had never considered such a notion before, as it essentially neatly sidesteps my mantra of living in whatever moment is currently taking place. But in pondering the great literary minds of the past and having ethanol-soaked conversations with their ghosts, I came to realize that regardless of their popularity at the time of their deaths, their existence persists in the further indulgence of their work. Their words act like the machine of Wells’ design, each read of Infinite Jest, Ulysses, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, to name just a few of the many examples, placing their respective composer firmly within the moment in which their texts begin a classical waltz with the reader.

For the sake of full disclosure, I cannot say why it took me so long to realize this. I have spent the last three decades composing in some form and it seems to have only just now hit me that compositions live on long after their author withers away entombed in the soggy, malodorous kingdom of worms.

Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact I am finally starting to get the first gentle, supple tastes of success? Perhaps it has something to do with suddenly approaching the age of thirty? Perhaps both?

In my extreme youth, I feverishly put pedestrian diction to wide-ruled notebook paper, rending scores of number two pencils until only the frail ferrule surrounding what was left of the pink rubber eraser survived. Those were carefree days; I never looked at writing as a career choice. At the time, I believe I wanted to be doctor, or a veterinarian, or a taxidermist (I had some strange childhood aspirations). Yet, I received so much pleasure from writing one-page short stories about ghosts, goblins, and interpretations of slasher movie plots (I had some strange childhood interests), I devoted a considerable portion of my free time to doing just that. Then, I would seal them closed with Crayola wax conveniently liquefied by my intense desk lamp that in retrospect may have actually been a fire hazard.

In my adolescence, I had become interested in music and by my early-20’s, I found myself in a new part of the country every other day performing textured, ether-drenched guitar riffs, reverb-rich bass notes, and sharp, shimmering percussion of my own composition to people I didn’t know in places I had previously never been. I cannot say whether youthful naiveté or the perpetual, ambient fog of marijuana and acid had anything to do with my lack of comprehension that my masterpieces, my art, would last forever, but as I quickly creep on the thirtieth anniversary of my birth, I now fully realize that everyone who witnessed the shows I performed with my band mates will always have some memory of that intimacy we shared, and it is in that memory that I will live on even after I turn to dust.

In the present, I am in the process of building a brand. Taking cues from the great minds who came before me, I craft fictional tales of inconsistent quality and provide sociopolitical commentary to hundreds of thousands of unique readers. In being a novelist and poet, I have come to realize that the men and women who have inspired me continue to live on not only through their own words, but also through mine. As a journalist, I now understand that even men and women who are not among the ranks of literary composers enjoy the time-bending perks as well, for their influence is felt to this day in morality, legislation, and jurisprudence.

So, maybe to restrict these musings solely to those who contribute to the finer arts is dishonest. Perhaps any contribution, even those in the realms of politics, social sciences, history, mathematics, and the empirical sciences also time-travel? Perhaps these men and women also live on, even long after their bodies have been returned to the Earth and recycled for reuse in the creation of someone else who, perhaps, may live on in defiance of time as well?

When I consider these notions, opening a book to engage the mind of someone else existing in a different point in time, it is difficult for me to not contemplate if I, too, will live on long after I am dead, joining the ranks of thousands who came before me and maybe even welcoming thousands more who will follow. Everything I put to paper will exist ad infinitum, which is, at least to me, a daunting insight.

But I would be Herodotus if I said it was not an enticing one and I would be James Frey if I stated I wouldn’t become comfortable with the notion of continuing to live on long after I am dead through the integrity of my work.

So at the end of the day, not only do those who write time-travel, but they also cheat death. Extinguishing my cigarette in a unique, handcrafted ashtray, I stand from my chair, as if to applaud the symphonic efforts of the insects below, and say to myself: to write is to take a blade to your palm and slowly drip crimson life in the brisk waters of the Fountain of Youth.

Copyright 2016 by Robert L. Franklin. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.